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BEIRUT/ BAGHDAD — Syrian Kurds welcomed the arrival in Kobani of Iraqi Kurdish fighters with their heavy weapons, hoping they might tip the balance in the battle to defend the town against ISIS, as U.S.-led air strikes continued to bomb the ultra-hardline group in Iraq and Syria. Air strikes have helped to foil several attempts by the al Qaeda offshoot, notorious for its beheading of hostages, to take over Kobani. But they have done little to stop its advances, in particular in Sunni areas of western Iraq, where it has executed hundreds of tribesmen.
ISIS fighters have mocked the U.S. air strikes as a campaign against Islam that they say has angered Muslims and helped the group win followers across the globe. The arrival of the 150 Iraqi fighters, who have yet to participate in the battle, marks the first time Turkey has allowed ground troops from outside Syria to reinforce Syrian Kurds, who have been defending Kobani for more than 40 days.
The fighters — known as peshmerga, or “those who defy death” — were preparing themselves for the battle and are expected to take part in action in Kobani later on Saturday, Kurdish officials said. “What was lacking is the weapons and ammunition, so the arrival of more of it plus the fighters will help tip the balance of the battle,” Idris Nassan, deputy foreign minister of Kobani district, told Reuters by telephone from Kobani. “The whole issue is the weapons and ammunition. Of course more fighters will help.”